Hindsight

There are moments in each of our lives that change everything.

Pivotal points that make us who we are. I can look back and pinpoint each monumental milestone in my life:

The day that I met a certain blond haired returned missionary on a blind date.

A cold February day when I happily promised to be his forever.

The birth of a beautiful red haired little girl–the day I became a mother.

A phone conversation with a friend that lived in Las Vegas.

I look back on these moments with fondness and appreciation. I know that each decision and twist of fate helped to create a life that I treasure.

But there are other moments. Moments of indescribable heartache:

A damaged relationship or loss of trust.

An ultrasound that confirmed that two little hearts had stopped beating.

A final rise of his chest, and then silence. And then slowly taking the blanket that I had used to cover him, and walking out of the hospital wrapped in it’s warmth.

It is interesting just how God uses trials and joy to mold us into the people that he wants us to be. And often, the hard times have changed my outlook so much more than the pleasant ones. I truly believe that we knew and agreed to the trials that we would face in this life. Although sometimes I wish I could jump back into pre-mortal life and shake myself, I know that my individual challenges were hand picked for me by the being who knows me better than I could ever know myself.

During painful times, I beg for relief. I focus all of my energy on “feeling better,” but looking back I don’t regret any of it. Each silent tear, and shaky breath, and shattered dream has shaped me into the person who I am today. I would do it all over again in a heartbeat.

Hindsight is always twenty/twenty right? But that doesn’t mean that future trials aren’t just as difficult to accept as previous ones. Hard is hard, no matter what you believe. This life wasn’t meant to be comfortable, for it is in the moments of discomfort and stretching beyond what we thought was possible, that we grow the most.

What I have found however, is that if we let it, grief can be so much more than pain and suffering. It can be the ultimate teacher of what truly matters. Our hearts can grow. And pain, although still vivid and real, can be used to find a deeper appreciation, a new perspective, unshakable faith, and a strong desire to live an intentional life.

One of my favorite quotes, one that I review when I need a little pick-me-up on dark days is by Orson F. Whitney:

“No pain that we suffer, no trial that we experience is wasted. It ministers to our education, to the development of such qualities as patience, faith, fortitude and humility. All that we suffer and all that we endure, especially when we endure it patiently, builds up our characters, purifies our hearts, expands our souls, and makes us more tender and charitable, more worthy to be called the children of God … and it is through sorrow and suffering, toil and tribulation, that we gain the education that we come here to acquire and which will make us more like our Father and Mother in heaven.”

The choice really is up to us, whether we allow the darkness of grief to keep us stuck in a dark place, and to take our hope, or whether we use our pain to become stronger and better versions of our past selves.

Trust God first. Understand later.

He knows what he is doing.

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The face of a widow.

It has been almost twenty two months since my husband passed away. Today, as I was driving home with my kids from the grocery store, a song came on the radio that reminded me of him. I took a deep breath as I tried to fight back the inevitable tears that were soon flowing down my face. My kids were laughing  in the back and asked me to look at something. I quickly wiped my face, and smiled as I turned, knowing they could worry if they saw me crying.

This is something I do often.

Hurry and hide the tears.

Smile.

Everything will be ok.

Except in that moment, I felt anything but fine. I felt so indescribably sad.

I have become an expert at faking it until I make it.

So I am here to tell you, that grief has so many different expressions. The face of a widow has much to tell.

It’s a look of pleading and desperation as she begs God to save the person she loves more than her own life.

It is kissing her husband for the last time, as silent tears stream down her cheeks.

It’s a blank stare as her world moves in slow motion, while the rest of the world remains seemingly unaware that everything is somehow less vibrant than before.

It’s the look of disbelief as she lays in her bed. Alone, for the first time, she stares into the darkness waiting to hear soft snoring beside her. In the silence, she hugs the pillow that still smells like him.

It’s in the tears that are unseen, washed away by drops of water as her shoulders shake and she sobs violently on the shower floor. She doesn’t want her children to have to watch her fall completely apart.

It’s in the look of longing as she stands in her closet, touching each item of clothing and smelling a half used bottle of cologne.

It’s an angry outburst. She is well beyond her breaking point.

It’s a forced smile at her children as they call their Daddy’s phone to hear his voice the only way that they can now…on an old voicemail recording. Then, after enduring all she can, finding an excuse to leave the room so she can scream into her pillow.

It’s holding the most precious parts of what are left of her husband in her arms as they beg and cry for their Daddy who is in Heaven. Though she tries, her own tears are impossible to contain, because she feels so discouraged, helpless, and broken herself.

It’s a clenched jaw and an understanding smile when someone mentions a fight with their spouse.

It’s the moment, when after kneeling in sincere prayer, her heart is full of peace and her eyes close while she just absorbs the moment.

It’s the look of determination, as she drags herself out of bed to start yet another day.

It is the tears of overwhelming gratitude as she realizes just how much good is in the world. She know she will never be able to repay all of the kindness, but she vows to herself that she will do her best to pass it forward when she is able.

It is the face of pure exhaustion. Pale, with dark circles hovering under her eyes.

It’s the smile that masks all of the pain, and that reassures others that she is doing ok.

And then, one day, it is the smile that surprises her. It feels foreign, but it is genuine.

It’s red eyes and smeared makeup. Or sometimes immaculate makeup and a smile. She doesn’t remember him any less in either moment.

It is a look of hope as she moves forward.

My tears are more managable these days, and smiles come more easily. But oh how my heart still misses my RJ. Grief is exhausting, and at times I feel so very alone. So many of my battles are fought within my own heart and mind.

But with so much divine help, I have made it through six hundred and fifty five of the hardest days of my life.

So I will wipe my tears, and think of all of the reasons that I have to truly smile.

It really is all going to be ok.

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